Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Anniversary Time Capsule
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: Anniversary Time Capsule. This week’s analysis portion is all about the NA and Korean scene because this week’s dataset starts with EnVyUs’ win over Meta Athena and ends in the semifinals of Curse’s final Overwatch Monthly Melee – a time period during which no relevant EU matches were played. Fear not for EU Overwatch, however, as TaKeOver 2 begins in at the start of June as the first intercontinental LAN of 2017.
To add to the now-growing list of reasons to feel optimistic about Overwatch esports, Blizzard also announced Overwatch Contenders: the pre-Overwatch-League league that will function as a showcase for teams wishing to eventually join find themselves among the ranks of the Overwatch League. Season 0 of Overwatch Contenders will feature an open qualifier component, but certain teams will receive priority seeding, berths in later rounds, or the option to skip the “0th” season entirely. It’s a little bit confusing, so I made a handy flowchart you can check out here.
I’m getting off track here, but suffice to say we’re going to have a ton of Overwatch to analyze and watch in the coming months. This summer is looking quite busy and Overwatch is looking as great as ever. Speaking of ever, I’m also going to be taking you all on a trip down memory lane by sharing a yearlong project I’ve been curating: one year’s worth of meta trends from the professional Overwatch scene. But before we look to the past, let’s analyze the present with this week’s tiers:
S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): NO ONE !?!?!!
Tier 1 (>80% Usage Rate): Lucio (92%)
Tier 2 (>50% Usage Rate): Tracer (78%), Winston (74%), D.Va (60%), Soldier 76 (50%)
Tier 3 (>20% Usage Rate): Zenyatta (42%), Genji (40%), Ana (40%), Reinhardt (27%), Zarya (23%), Mercy (21%), Pharah (20%)
Tier 4 (>5% Usage Rate): Roadhog (18%), McCree (5%)
Tier 5 (<5% Usage Rate): Sombra (4%), Widowmaker (4%), Mei (1%), Torbjorn (1%), Bastion (0%), Reaper (0%), Hanzo (0%), Orisa (0%), Symmetra (0%), Junkrat (0%)
Lucio’s Reign of Terror at an End?
Hold on just a minute. Is that zero S-Tier heroes that I see? Is the statue of Lucio at the top of Mount Overwatch showing some cracks? This is the first week in a long time that he’s had less than 95% usage. So long, we actually have to look back to the very first week of Season 4 to find the last time he dipped below this (arbitrarily chosen) milestone:
For this, we can thank:
Maps like Numbani, where teams had lengthy/full holds with a Tobjorn subbed in instead of a Lucio this week
Evil Geniuses, who defended second point of Volskaya with a Lucio-less Ana/Sombra lineup
EnVyUs, who full-held on Dorado with a Zenyatta/Ana composition, and Meta Athena, who attacked into it with the same support duo
And many other factors. For a more detailed breakdown of where Lucio was, and wasn’t used at a >90% clip, I suggest checking out my Map/Hero Breakout chart, an example of which you can see below:
It seems like the reduction in Lucio’s Aura radius has begun to affect his usage in this Dive-centric meta. Defending teams are taking more spread out positions to lessen the cleaving effects of Winston and Genji while also punishing dives that commit too deep. This increased defensive positional space means that long-distance healers like Ana and Zenyatta may be more preferable, or Ana/Sombra combos for lineups that can abuse well-placed health packs on Assault maps. The overall data backs up this idea as well, Defense is the weakest part of Lucio’s game at the pro level:
Is this a trend that will continue? It’s hard to say at the moment. I the next hero that I’m going to look at is an extreme reaction to the present Dive meta, but does not seem to rely on Lucio at all. We’ll have to continue monitoring Lucio to see where trend takes us.
Despite carrying the burden of Overatch’s strongest ultimate, Zarya has been in a bit of a slump lately. In the heyday of the Tank meta, Zarya enjoyed usage rates of >50%, sometimes spiking to 80%, but recently her usage has dropped to the low 20s to as low as 9% in last week’s report. Teams judged her as too slow – both in movement and ultimate charge rate – to keep up with high octane, tempo-based, ultimate-dumping Dive compositions. Her lack of mobility is still the weakest part of her kit, however a subtle change has started to occur in how teams use Zarya, which tries to mitigate this weakness. While Zarya did drop to 9% usage last week, she has bounced back and recovered to a serviceable 23% usage thanks mainly to CLG and Selfless, two teams that often scrim together.
It’s no surprise then that they have developed a similar “solution” to the Dive meta: using a skilled Zarya player and an assurance that the enemy team would be running D.Va to bust open dives on closed-in maps. I spoke to LegitRC and Cuddles, the coaches of Selfless and CLG respectively to better understand the idea underlying this lineup change and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn a lot. Both coaches saw an opportunity to target D.Va-running opponents with their skilled Zarya players, Miso and Sinatraa, on maps like King’s Row, Eichenwalde, and certain king of the hill maps. These are maps where Zarya’s movement weakness is lessened, since points like King’s Row first leave little room for defending teams to disengage. LegitRC said that Selfless was more than happy to run her on more open maps like Nepal Shrine, where they can force fights at natural chokepoints. This is a key element to making Zarya work against more mobile team compositions: forcing fights wherever she happens to be. This is one of the reasons why Cuddles believes Zarya works better on offense than defense despite a relatively balanced overall usage across game modes:
Cuddles explained to me that by using Zarya primarily on offense, CLG could force the defense to come to them, within the range of Miso’s deadly beam, simply by putting their entire team on the point at once. If there’s one thing that Zarya excels at it’s head-to-head brawls, where her energy can quickly charge and be sustained. CLG and Selfless were also dumping their Nanoboosts into Miso and Sinatraa as soon as they got them, the better to quickly charge Graviton Surge to both disrupt their opponents’ internal ult-tracking rhythm and bring the slow-charging ultimate up to speed with the current meta. This also made Zarya even more effective against D.Va: a fully charged Zarya can pop a D.Va out of her M.E.K.A. in no time, much less a fully charged and Nanoboosted Zarya. This made dropping eventual Gravitons much safer with no Defense Matrix to worry about, however Cuddles said that any Zarya near Miso’s level will know how to drop Gravitons without them being eaten.
Now, flip the offense on its head and you will see why defensive Zaryas may drop off except for final points of escort maps. If you Nanoboost a Zarya on a first point defense, your opponent will simply point and laugh at you as they disengage to safety. Defensive Zaryas have no way to force their opponents to come to them on demand like offensive Zaryas do, except for when the game timer is about to run out and the offense has to get desperate. If Zarya continues to rise in usage as a counter to the prevalence of D.Va, I expect the rate of offensive Zaryas to far outpace defensive Zaryas for this exact reason.
CLG and Selfless are some of the first, but certainly not the last teams to experiment in this direction. LegitRC mused that NA Zaryas are, for the most part, actually more skilled than their Korean counterparts and Cuddles and I agreed. I trace this phenomenon to the days of the Tank meta, where NA teams warped themselves around the idea of running 3-4 tank deathballs with an Ana to keep them topped off. This meta leaked out onto the ranked play ladder, and Zarya became one of the go-to heroes to play for her carry solo-play carry potential. Koreans cared not for the tank meta, and continued chugging along with their Genji-centric dive comps on their own separate ladder – so by comparison the region simply has less time played on Zarya in general. The days of the Tank meta are long gone, but those Zarya mains forged in the fires of NA ranked remain. There’s one lesson to learn from all of this: don’t sleep on the Russian.
There were several heroes this week who benefitted from being what I’m calling Side-Specific Specialists. These are the heroes that are much more effective on offense than defense, more effective on king of the hill than offense, you get the idea. This past week’s such heroes were Soldier 76 and Ana on defense, Genji and Zenyatta on offense, and Pharah and Mercy on king of the hill. Soldier 76 and Ana spread out defenses to make them more resistant to Dive comps by taking high ground positions far from the rest of their team. From afar, the Ana topping off distant friendlies while the Soldier 76’s heal station helps bolster the duo’s staying power. On the flip side, Zenyatta and Genji are no doubt offensive staples due to Discord Orb and Genji’s Dash-reset combos being vital to Dive comps.
Let’s drive down a little deeper into the Pharah-Mercy-king-of-the-hill phenomenon, however. Looking to my Map/Hero Breakout chart, we can see that much of this usage comes on fairly obvious sub-maps: Lijiang and Oasis Gardens, and Oasis City Center
These maps have a lot of verticality for a flying Pharah-Mercy pair to move about, but what’s more important is that these maps are long. Once the point is secured, the defending Pharah can spam damage-boosted rockets into a chokepoint from a position of near-invulnerability, simply due to how far away she is. It’s no surprise that teams with Pharah ringers like Yikes! targeted these maps during OMM’s drafting phases.
Overwatch Anniversary Time Capsule
One year ago, Overwatch was released and at that time I started a project: to document its hero usage at the pro level over time. I was already doing so every week for my meta reports, but I had never put it all together week-to-week, season-to-season, until now. Behold, a year’s worth of professional Overwatch in one chart. I’ve stripped a lot of cluttering information from the chart for purely aesthetic reasons, but you can still find dates, hero names, and exact usage rates by mousing over the bars. You can also highlight each hero by mousing over its portrait or color. Now then, it’s time to tell the tale of a few of the more interesting events that lead to the drastic changes in hero landscape you can see above. Join me, let’s open the time capsule:
The Wild West Days of 0 Hero Limit
You might be wondering why the hell the overall hero usage was so irregular prior to July 10th, and it’s for two reasons. The first, this was when I transitioned from reporting “pick rate” to “usage rate”. The former method counted picks as any appearance by any hero during the course of a match, and it was misleading at best. A Widowmaker used for 30 seconds at the start of a match vs. a Lucio used for the entirety of a match would have the same weighting under that system, which was something I was not happy with. I now use “usage”, which is simply time played / total time recorded.
But that’s all boring nuts and bolts. The other interesting event that happened between the dates of July 3rd and 10th last year was that the professional Overwatch community decided that no limits on heroes was too anti-fun for them to deal with anymore, so the official ruleset for pro tournaments included started to include a 1-hero limit. Note, that this was before Blizzard announced their own intention to implement a 1-hero limit on the PTR on July 12th, which went live along with Ana on July 19th.
The Patch that Shook the World
Speaking of going live with Ana, if I had to pick one patch that forever changed Overwatch as we know it, it has to be that fateful July 19th patch. This patch brought Ana, the bane of many players during the Beyblade, then World of Tanks metas, but the immediate effects of the the balance changes ushered in alongside her were the most severe seen throughout this game’s infancy. It stands out on the chart like a blight on the rings of a tree that survived a forest fire. Why did Mercy suddenly go extinct, only to be replaced instantly by Zenyatta? Why did Pharah disappear, only to be usurped by McCree and Genji?
I’ll tell you why. Prior to this patch, Zenyatta only had 150 health, no movement abilities, and was basically a fish in a barrel waiting to be shot in 99⁄100 situations. But Zenyatta was concealing a secret weapon, a weapon unleashed by a 50 shield buff to his health pool that brought his survivability into the “viable” zone. The weapon I’m talking about is Discord Orb, which at the time granted 50% bonus damage to the target it was attached to, rather than today’s 30%. Zenyatta was suddenly a must-pick hero – even moreso than Lucio – and his absurdly broken Discord Orb dragged other heroes out of the mud along with him. Genji and McCree, previously marginalized during a Soldier/Pharah meta, rocketed to the top of the DPS power rankings as the two heroes most able to abuse Discorded targets. Pharah, one Orb and one “plink” from dying, similarly disappeared.
Everyone finally realizes how strong Ana is
Ana’s sudden and seemingly permanent rise to dominance was not actually due to every pro realizing that she was so strong – they already knew that. What actually happened was that Discord Orb was nerfed on September 1st, opening up room for other supports to take the wheel. And boy, did Ana take the wheel. Ana holds the prize for being nearly nerf-proof throughout her lifetime – only recently with the rise of Lucio/Zenyatta powered dive comps (and a nerf to her damage output) has Ana even faltered a step. What’s even more crazy is that nerfs to Ana indirectly knocked other heroes out of the meta, like Reaper:
On November 15th, in an effort to curb Ana’s power, Blizzard removed the speed boost component from Nanoboost as well as increased ultimate cost by 25% across the board, effectively ending the Beyblade Meta. While Reaper was never seen again, Ana continued unfazed as teams quickly adapted her immense healing output to farm Nanoboosts off big bodies…and the Tank Meta was born.
Soldier 76 and McCree’s fight for dominance
Although I’ve only highlighted the most recent iteration of this dance, Soldier 76 and McCree have almost never been viable at the same time. This isn’t necessarily because they’re both hitscan dps, however, as outside factors as well as direct nerfs and buffs have brought them in and out of the meta at roughly the same time. This strange relationship started off with the double-McCree, High-Noon spamming, Fan-the-Hammer comboing days of 0-Hero limit. McCree’s kit was seen as superior because of his stun and his ability to bust tanks, and Soldier 76’s status as a long-range hitscan was taken up by Widowmaker. At that time, McCree could also cancel his ultimate and received 50% of it back, meaning that with two McCrees you could easily have a Deadeye available for every fight.
After Fan the Hammer was nerfed and Deadeye were nerfed, Soldier 76 enjoyed a brief moment of popularity before the Zenyatta buff, which brought McCree back into the spotlight. It took a November 15th mega-buff to Soldier 76’s damage to force McCree out, making Soldier 76 one of the few dps played during the height of the Tank meta. This damage buff has been reduced slightly as part of the Overwatch Anniversary patch, so time will tell if this will be enough for these two hitscan dps to settle their differences and be viable at the pro level at the same time.
Final Thoughts and Shoutouts
Was there anything else you noticed in the Time Capsule that you wanted explained? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments of my reddit thread. Shoutout to TakeTV for the first LAN in…forever and for hosting the Overwatch Anniversary Celebration event which streamed live on Twitch on the PlayOverwatch Channel. Shoutout also to Blizzard, who has finally delivered the groundwork for not only the Overwatch League but also the path to the Overwatch league by announcing Overwatch Contenders (or “The O.C.” as I’ve decided to call it). I recommend checking out the O.C.’s team page, where many amazing and hilarious team names have started to pop up. The O.C. has already had to reschedule some of its dates presumably due to the large amount of teams that have signed up. We’re esports now, ladies and gentleman.
Until next time,